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Prof Janette Webb Appointed to Scottish Government Expert Panel

The panel will review the definition of ‘Fuel Poverty’

HOW SHOULD GOVERNMENT UNDERSTAND FUEL POVERTY AND WHAT DEFINITION IS MOST USEFUL FOR HELPING HOUSEHOLDS WITH THE LOWEST INCOMES?

Based on her comparative European research on heat and energy efficiency policy and practices, Prof Janette Webb has been appointed to the Scottish Government expert Panel to Review the Definition of ‘Fuel Poverty’. Acting on advice from the previous strategic working group, the Government has concluded that the current definition may be impeding efforts to target those most in need. Scotland’s existing definition is derived from Brenda Boardman’s (1991) book Fuel Poverty, and states that “A household is in fuel poverty if, in order to maintain a satisfactory heating regime, it would be required to spend more than 10% of its income (including Housing Benefit or Income Support for Mortgage Interest) on all household fuel use.” This has become increasingly contested, and contentious, because it takes no account of the level of household income and is highly sensitive to the increasing price of energy. A wealthy family living in a large draughty house, for example, may spend more than 10% of income on energy bills, but there are ethical questions about whether such a household should be technically defined as ‘fuel poor’ and equally eligible as low income households for grants to help make energy affordable. In addition, the ‘technical definition’ gives way in practice to the use of a number of proxy indicators, which rely on modelled, rather than actual, energy costs and household incomes.

The Panel will discuss whether a revised definition can help target Government efforts to eradicate fuel poverty; its Report, due in late August 2017, will contribute to the forthcoming Warm Homes Bill.

Other Panel members are Professor Christine Liddell MBE, Ulster University; Professor Glen Bramley, Heriot-Watt University and Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Heriot-Watt University.

Scottish Government Press Release https://news.gov.scot/news/action-on-fuel-poverty-1

Fuel Poverty

Thermal image of multi storey housing showing heat escaping

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